Q&A: 50,000km in a Nissan Leaf

Feb 18, 2022

In 2017 we bought a 2014 Nissan Leaf.  It had 19,000km on the clock and a 24kWh battery (the smaller one).  We paid $19k for it and became one of NZ’s first Leaf owners.  At that time, other Leaf owners used to wave as they drove past! 😊.  Not anymore though, and we ‘Leaf convoys’ are common.  They’re everywhere!

In this post I share our experience of owning this EV for 50,000km.  Our experiences might be useful if you’ve ever thought about buying one yourself.

Q: What do you use it for?

A: We’re a 2-car family and this is our ‘around town’ car.  We don’t go on long trips in it – never even tried.

Q: How far can you go on a charge?

A: It’s hard to say because driving on the open road noticeably reduces range, and so does using the heater or aircon.  So, you can’t trust how many kms the car says it has left.  But because we only use it for around town driving, airport pickups, supermarket shopping, visiting friends etc, range has never been a concern.  It’d easily do 120km or more, but I wouldn’t buy one if I lived outside Christchurch or wanted to do longer trips.  It’s fine for what we use it for though.

Q: How healthy is your battery?

A: Nissan Leafs show their battery health on the dashboard like a fuel gauge.  A brand-new battery will be 12-bars high.  Ours was 11 or 12 when we bought it, and now shows 10 bars, which is maybe 80-85% health.  We’ve never used LeafSpy to get an accurate SOH number.

Q: Don’t you worry about needing a battery replacement?

A: Not really.  We only ever charge our battery to 80%, which is configurable through a setting on the car itself.  Not fully charging the battery stresses it less, and we don’t need 100% charge for the driving we do.  It’s rare for us to use more than 50% of a battery charge.  I guess in another 5-10 years range could be a problem, but I expect there will be a lot of battery replacement/upgrade options available then.

Q: How do you charge it?

A: We use a standard 3-pin plug in our garage.  The car came with an external charger box that we’ve configured to turn on only during off-peak power rates.  We have an on-peak/off-peak power plan that sets our off-peak rate at around $0.115 cents per kWh.   Our charger reports we’ve used 6931 kWh over the 50,000km we’ve done.  This works out to around 7.2km/kWh, which is about 0.6c of power cost per km of driving.  As a comparison an average petrol car using 7.6 litres per 100km costs 21c of petrol per km.  We don’t notice it on our power bill.

Q: How much maintenance does it need?

A: We’ve replaced the tyres, and windscreen wipers, but other than that it’s had no maintenance, and nothing has gone wrong.  I think the transmission fluid should be changed at 100,000kms, and I expect I’ll also need to replace it’s (little) 12V battery that runs the stereo, wipers etc at some point.  It doesn’t wear out brake pads because it uses the motor to regenerate power when you brake, and it’s never failed a warrant.  It’s very reliable.

Q: How do you put up with its looks?

A: Yep, fair question. It’s not a cool car but it does drive well.  It’s quick off the lights, quiet and handles well.  It’s comfortable, surprisingly spacious, has heated seats and a heated steering wheel (so you don’t need to use the heater as much).  I’m not looking to impress.

Q: Would you buy another one?

A: Yes, absolutely.  It’s been a great buy and has held its value surprisingly well.  Electric vehicles are still exempt from road-user charges in NZ and pay no fuel tax until end of March 2024 as part of the government’s Clean Car Package.  Once this ends it’ll cost more to run but the value proposition is still good.

Q: Do you have any final thoughts?

A: Don’t get hung up on EV range.  If you are a 2-car family and use one of your cars for around town driving, an older EV like a Nissan Leaf is well worth considering.  Older 24kWh models with a slightly worn battery can easily meet your needs.  You don’t need expensive wiring changes to your house, or access to fast chargers to support them either.  Someone once gifted me a little booklet with 511 Suggestions, Observations, and Reminders on How to Live a Happy and Rewarding Life’.  I remember one of the instructions was ‘Buy the best house you can afford but drive a cheap car’.  EVs are still out of reach for many people, but you don’t need a Tesla either.

Peter Brook

Peter is our vBridge Operations and Information Security Manager. He has over 20 years experience in many NZ organisations including PGG Wrightson, CDHB, Lyttelton Port Company and Spark Digital.